Can Ronnie win another World title or two? Would Judd Trump beat Steve Davis?

Stephen Hendry was on Instagram, chatting with Alan McManus this time, and the question was raised, whether Ronnie can surpass Stephen’s record of 7 World Titles.

Here is Eurosport reporting on the two great Scots opinions

Hendry: O’Sullivan has ‘three or four more world titles in him’

Ronnie 2013 World Champion

Stephen Hendry is convinced Ronnie O’Sullivan can win “three or four more world titles” if he is determined to become snooker’s greatest Crucible champion.

The seven-times world champion Hendry insists O’Sullivan can still overtake him as the game’s most prolific winner despite celebrating the last of his five world victories in Sheffield seven years ago.

“If he wants to and his head is right, I think he can win another three or four world titles,” said Hendry during an Instagram chat with Alan McManus, who won the 1994 Masters with a 9-8 win over his fellow Scotsman.

McManus believes O’Sullivan, 44, has underachieved in his 28-year professional career despite drawing level with Hendry on 36 ranking event victories and becoming the first player to compile over 1000 career centuries.

“Probably (has underachieved). How many goes has he had at Sheffield? 27 goes or something. He’s won it five times which is good,” commented McManus.

“He looked like he was never being bothered properly until the early 2000s or something,” said Hendry.

He’ll always be a genius, but there seemed to be a time when he was suddenlythere to win.

McManus is slightly baffled by O’Sullivan’s recent comments regarding the length of the World Championship being too long for him and feels the Essex player should trust in the advice of sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.

“With me, I’m such an emotional player and person, to try and hold it down for 17 days, I’m beaten before I go there sometimes, it’s just not a great tournament for me. It’s like asking Usain Bolt to run the marathon. It’s just not suited to his genes or personality,” said O’Sullivan.

McManus is adamant the duration of the event should not be an issue.

“I think we can safely say, can he win another world title? The answer is yes, of course he can,” said McManus.

“I don’t know about this 17-day thing he talks about. The first week you are only playing one match. I think he needs to get tuned in properly.

That guy Steve Peters seems to help him whatever he does. I would get him in tow and just get on with it.

Hendry says O’Sullivan cannot be blamed for not enjoying the challenge of the World Championship.

“Ronnie admits that he isn’t really interested in being there for 17 days. You can’t argue with that. If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel,” said Hendry.

McManus feels a dream final would be an O’Sullivan showdown with undisputed world number one and world champion Judd Trump if the postponed tournament goes ahead behind closed doors at the end of July.

“He’s capable of doing it. Whether he can be bothered putting the work in to be able to do it, I don’t know it,” said McManus.

“It would be good if he gets to play Judd in the final. It would actually be interesting to see Ronnie being the underdog.

“Judd is the top man now, let’s face it.”

Funnily enough, Neil Robertson, talking to Desmond Kane, had expressed a similar opinion just a week ago

Robertson: O’Sullivan can still equal Hendry’s world record haul

Neil Robertson - Ronnie O'Sullivan

Desmond KaneDesmond Kane

By Desmond Kane

Ronnie O’Sullivan can still reach Stephen Hendry’s record Crucible haul of seven if he wants it badly enough, according to 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.

Australia’s greatest player believes O’Sullivan – world champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 – has the ability to add to his total of five victories despite last winning snooker’s ultimate event seven years ago with an 18-12 win over Barry Hawkins.

Hendry’s Crucible record is arguably the last major one O’Sullivan has yet to topple having lifted seven Masters and seven UK titles, compiling over 1,000 centuries and joining Hendry on 36 career ranking event wins.

O’Sullivan last reached the world final when he lost 18-14 to Mark Selby in 2014, but has suffered several surprising defeats in recent times including a 10-8 defeat to amateur qualifier James Cahill in the first round a year ago, one of the biggest shocks of all time.

He has twice lost in the quarter-finals over the past five years being unseated by Stuart Bingham in 2015 – a year where he removed his shoes during a first-round win over Craig Steadman – and Ding Junhui in 2017.

There was also the infamous incident with Ali Carter in a second-round defeat in 2018 where both players bumped into each other at the table.

“Yeah for sure Ronnie could win seven. It all depends on his head,” Robertson told Eurosport. “Last year was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.

“Ever since he lost to Selby in the final, every year since has been really strange. He lost to Barry Hawkins (second round in 2016) which was an unbelievable match.

A lot is expected of him. Not so much from the crowd. He just seems to attract a lot more attention from people away from the table. Nothing bad or anything, it’s just he is the superstar of the game so he has to deal with a lot of that.

“He was quite open and honest about how he has approached this season. He has been quite attacking and playing to enjoy it rather than not really enjoying it at all.”

O’Sullivan has vowed to commit to a full schedule over the next two years. “I do think for the next two years I might just focus and play in every event I can possibly play in,” he said on Instagram. “Give it one last shot and see if I can get my game to a level where I’m confident of winning.”

O’Sullivan’s five-year Crucible record

  • 2019 Lost 10-8 James Cahill (first round)
  • 2018 Lost 13-9 Ali Carter (second round)
  • 2017 Lost 13-10 Ding Junhui (quarter-finals)
  • 2016 Lost 13-12 Barry Hawkins (second round)
  • 2015 Lost 13-9 Stuart Bingham (quarter-finals)

History suggests O’Sullivan will struggle to land even one more world title at the age of 44 at an event he admits he dislikes due to the elongated and exhaustive nature of it over 17 days in Sheffield. Six-times world champion Ray Reardon remains the oldest winner of the Crucible era aged 45 and 203 days in 1978.

This year’s rescheduled event is due to begin on July 31 and is likely to be played to behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic if it goes ahead. O’Sullivan is ranked 18 on the game’s one-year list. His last ranking event victory came in March 2019 when he beat Robertson 13-11 in the Tour Championship final in Llandudno.

Robertson feels O’Sullivan’s desire is the key to any future success.

“He has still played to a decent standard, but not really to the levels he reached over the previous two seasons when he won around 80 percent of all the tournaments he played in,” said Robertson.

“Which was an insane record. It all depends on what his mindset is, and what he wants out it. He has said he plans to give it a real good go.

“For the game, it would obviously be brilliant if he wants to compete again at most of the events. That would be fantastic even though it would lessen mine and everybody else’s chances of winning events including Ronnie’s too.

“It will be a fantastic challenge to see Ronnie playing more that we should all welcome.”

Desmond Kane

Well … personally, I would love to see Ronnie win ONE more. I would be delighted if he gets to six. Of course seven would be fantastic, but just one more would make me perfectly happy. Can he do it? I’m not sure. Does he still have the game? Definitely in my opinion. Does he have the desire? Probably. The real issue – in my view – is neither desire nor ability, it’s a combination of stress related to the expectations everyone puts on him, anxiety caused his own perception of the very high standard he is expected to deliver and the scars left by the 2014 defeat to Mark Selby. The latter are not to be underestimated. That defeat did hurt, very badly, and not just the defeat but the manner of it. Ronnie and Mark go along well nowadays, and there is huge respect between them, but the scars remain.

In my opinion, Ronnie’s best chance to win another World title would be to head to the Championship as an underdog, just like in 2012 and in 2013. In 2012 he had only just avoided to have to qualify after two terrible seasons, in 2013 he came as the World Champion but having just played one low key match all season, a match he had lost. If the focus and expectations are on other players, then he has a good chance to avoid the early rounds “banana skin” (*).  Once we get to the one table set-up, the whole atmosphere of the Championship changes. It’s no more a cramped venue made even more claustrophobic by the curtain in the middle. It’s a proper arena. It’s still a bear pit, but that doesn’t matter: so was Goffs in Ireland, and it was one of Ronnie’s favourite venues.

(*) I know that many fans think that Ronnie must be a confident player, considering how much he has won so far in his career. Nothing is further from the truth. He’s an anxious person. He’s been open about his depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. He’s learned to cope with that better than in the past, but it’s not gone, it never will, it’s part of the person he is. When he can get in the zone – only him and the table in a bubble – he’s incredibly strong under pressure, but when he can’t … he’s vulnerable.

Another World Championship related question was also debated between Stephen and Alan: what would happen if Judd Trump was to face Steve Davis in his prime?

Here is what Eurosport took from their conversation:

Generation game: Could Davis at his best topple Trump?

Judd Trump - Steve Davis

Stephen Hendry and Alan McManus agree that Steve Davis in his prime would have caused real problems for world champion and world number one Judd Trump with his superior tactical game.

Seven-times world champion Hendry believes Trump in top gear would win a world final “18-7 or 18-8” if the pair met at the peak of their powers, but added that his old rival’s “granite” safety game would give him a chance.

Three-times World Championship semi-finalist McManus points out that it would not be a foregone conclusion because of six-times world champion Davis’ ability to starve his opponents of chances.

“It’s tough. When you discuss different eras, you have to remember this: the day that Davis won his world titles, all the days between now and then hadn’t happened yet,” said 1994 Masters winner McManus on Instagram

“He didn’t know about Judd. He was playing the guy in the other chair.

“You’ve got to take that into account. I only played ‘The Nugget’ in the nineties, and I thought he was an unbelievable player.”

Trump produced the greatest performance in a world final with an 18-9 win over John Higgins in the 2019 final, a match that saw him make seven century breaks.

While Hendry feels Trump will carry snooker to a new level, he agreed with McManus that Davis – Crucible winner in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989 – was a fearsome competitor in his pomp.

“There was time when you wondered: ‘How could you beat him?’,” said Hendry.

“I think Judd is possibly going to take the game to a new level. Judd would probably beat him, but I’d be interested to see.

“Judd would probably beat him 18-7 or 18-8. Something like that.”

McManus recalled the UK Championship final in 1990 when Hendry edged Davis 16-15 in one of the sport’s all-time classic clashes at Preston’s Guild Hall.

“The famous UK final between you and him in 1990. I know how well you were playing. He was playing good, wasn’t he?,” said McManus.

“The other thing you have to say is that Judd would need to play well to win otherwise ‘The Nugget’ would get him.

“Davis was an unbelievable player. I played him in my first final (Asian Open in 1992) in Bangkok. I never missed a shot, I played awesome, one of the best matches I’ve ever played.

“He beat me 9-3 and I was over the moon with myself.”

This, in my opinion, is an impossible question to answer. For a start, the conditions were quite different, notably because of the heavier cloth. This made some shots easier to master (I’m thinking massés f.i.) whilst others were much more difficult (splitting the pack wide open f.i.). I think that Judd would struggle with those conditions, despite his tremendous cue power. He developed as a player on much faster tables and he plays a lot of shots that have balls traveling the full length of the table. It’s one of his strength and those shots might prove more difficult to get right on a slower table. Conversely, Steve Davis started playing on those slower tables and he may struggle for accuracy on the ultra-fast ones. Why am I writing this? Because players develop and hone their game in a certain context: the conditions available to them in their time. I’m not sure that Judd would play the type of game he plays now if he was born 30 years earlier, and Steve Davis might have become a different player too if he had been exposed to nowadays conditions in his prime. They are both supremely talented, and very fierce competitors, and that’s who they are, no matter when they were born, but how they developed as players would probably be different. I believe that, each playing at their prime level, Steve would beat Judd on the 80th conditions, whilst Judd would beat Steve playing on nowadays tables. But it’s a completely academic question.

At the time of writing I haven’t listened to the chat yet… probably more on that tomorrow then.

 

Day 9 of “No Crucible”

Yesterday evening should have seen the conclusion of the second round at the World Championship …

Eurosport has published this vodcast about the “Greatest Rivalries”

To be honest, I found this one a bit disappointing, but the issue is probably with me rather than with the vodcast. I’m not overly interested in “rivalries” and the concept of “rivalry” itself is not entirely clear to me.

I’m certain that Alex Higgins saw anyone who beat him regularly, and possibly threatened his “status” as “People Champion and the most important player on the tour, as a rival or even as an enemy. His attitude towards the like of Steve Davis, Cliff Thorburn, and Dennis Taylor suggests that much. At times he really hated them. I’m very doubtful that those “rivals” feelings were reciprocal, nor that they were so extreme. They probably had very mixed feelings: irritation most of the time, anger as well, but surely they were also disconcerted and puzzled as it was plain for all to see that he wasn’t stable mentally and battling addictions.

Some of those “rivalries” were the expression of a “change of guard”: Davis v Hendry, Hendry v Ronnie, Ronnie v Trump and to an extend Selby are examples.

Other rivalries, like Ronnie v John Higgins, John Higgins v Mark Williams, Mark Williams v Ronnie, are the true rivalries in my eyes: sportsmen of the same generation, competing against each other throughout their career. Same era, same opportunities, same conditions.

And then, you have those rivalries that are more of a fans’ thing than anything else. As much as I like Jimmy White for his unwavering love of the game, I can’t see him as a rival to either Hendry or Steve Davis in terms of career and achievements, and, surely, both Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry must have been aware of this even in their prime. Jimmy had the flair, the charisma, and the charm … but his lifestyle, personality, and iffy work ethic meant that he was never going to challenge them in terms of career achievements.

To an extend, this also goes for the Hendry v Ronnie rivalry from 2004 on. Hendry was no more the force he had been, but hope never died in his fans.

WST Crucible Gold was about Ronnie and shows his last three Crucible Finals wins

This of course triggered very fond memories for me, as I was there in 2012 and 2013.

It also awoke bittersweet ones. I was thrilled to watch him win in 2008. I was in a snooker club, because I couldn’t watch BBC at home. The club doesn’t exist anymore, it’s a supermarket now, the owner has lefts us, taken away by cancer, and I remember the mixed feelings seeing Ronnie there with his partner and two young children. At the time, I knew that their relationship was on the rocks,

Day 8 of “No Crucible” – Bizarre?

In their daily vodcast, Andy Goldstein, Neal Foulds, and Jimmy White explore “bizarre” snooker moments. 

With hindsight, it’s true that the whole 2020 Masters was a story of the unexpected, and, of course, Ronnie’s concession at the UK Championship in 2006 left everyone puzzled, and many worried. Signs that things weren’t right had been there in the previous months though.

But, there were a number of other strange moments, not included in their vodcast, and here are a few.

Dechawat Poomjaeng at the 2013 World Championship certainly should have been included …

It was both funny and disturbing. One of the funniest moments I was lucky to witness at the Crucible came in the media room after Stephen Maguire first-round defeat to Poomjaeng that year. Maguire came to the media room, obviously gutted and more than just slightly nonplussed. He literally let himself fall on the chair, sat there slumped for a few seconds, then declared “I have never seen anything like that”. Then leaned over the desk, half-covered his mouth with his hand, and with the look of a man about to disclose a dangerous secret, he whispered “Between us … he’s not the full shilling”. Now considering that there were about 5 mikes and 15 recorders on that desk, not even mentioning that the whole interview was filmed, that was quite surrealistically comical.

This incident at the Crucible in 2009 was quite strange as well and triggered endless discussions amongst fans

It’s obvious that, had Dotty not put his fist in the pocket, the white would have gone in-off. However, the white, in this case, was still on the bed of the table when Graeme touched it. Therefore, Alan Chamberlain calls a foul, as expected, but not because of the in-off, because Graeme has interfered with a ball in play. Also because there wasn’t an in-off, Alan leaves the white where it stopped, instead of cleaning it and putting it on the cushion. Mark Selby though doesn’t understand this. In his view, the white was going in-off and therefore, he believes that he has ball in hand and picks it. Alan Chamberlain immediately calls a foul … as it’s now Mark Selby who has been interfering with a ball in play. Eventually, Dott very sportingly refuses to take advantage. Strictly sticking by the rules Alan Chamberlain was right. But, under those circumstances, his call was a bit unfair on Mark Selby. I don’t think any player, except maybe Dominic Dale, or someone who is a referee as well as a player would have reacted differently than Mark did.

This one wasn’t bad either … Graeme Dott gets static shocks when touching the table at the Crucible in 2013 and asks for the carpet to be watered

Luca Brecel coming to his first-round match at the 2018 Masters, carrying two cues, was strange too, especially as, at no point, did it became clear what his intentions were. Having several cues is not unusual in pool, but the purpose is generally obvious: one cue to break, one to play, and, in some cases, another one to play jump shots. But in snooker? I can’t remember another occurrence of a player turning up with several cues.

“Crucible Gold” was looking at Stephen Hendry’s Crucible wins in 1990, 1992, 1994.

All three of those were wins over Jimmy White. In 1992, Hendry won 10 frames on the spin to win the match 18-14 from 14-8 down, in 1994, Jimmy twitched on a simple black off the spot, with the table at his mercy. Stephen was sitting in his chair, looking resigned, and admitted afterward that he didn’t expect to get another chance. Many fans are convinced that Jimmy White would surely have been a World Champion, if it wasn’t for Hendry. I love Jimmy, but I’m really not sure. He definitely should have won at least one of those two. Jimmy lost those two matches as much if not more than Stephen won them.

And finally, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie are going to do another Instagram chat on April 30, 2020. It should be interesting!

Hendry Instagram announcement

Day 7 of “No Crucible” – Ronnie looks back at his career and plans his future

Ronnie O’Sullivan reveals retirement plans after ‘disaster’ of last year

UK2018ronnie_BetwayInterviewRonnie O’Sullivan – Image credit: Getty Images

In a wide-ranging discussion about his life off the table during a storied career, Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport he will retire at the age of 50.

In a frank and honest discussion, O’Sullivan spoke about how his life spiralled in the 1990s following his incredible ascent to fame as a teenager, and the imprisonment of his father, before a spell in rehab proved a turning point in his career. The five-time world champion also talked about the roles played by his mentors Ray Reardon and Steve Peters in cementing him as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

O’Sullivan went on to examine why a reduced schedule didn’t work for him in 2019-20 and how he will change next season by not practicing and instead “play every tournament”. He also revealed why he will retire in five years time…

We have selected some of the best extracts below, but you can listen to the podcast for the full episode.

RONNIE ON HIS PRIVATE LIFE IN THE 1990s

I was just partying a bit too much and like I said when I won that tournament (in 1993) I thought I’d made it. I’d come into a bit of money, I had a nice house, a nice car, I was single. So, I could do what I want when I liked really. I just probably chose the wrong company but it just got hold of me really. I took my eye off the ball. I wasn’t really focused on snooker and I wasted probably five years of my career just messing about really.

THE ‘LIGHTBULB MOMENT’ WHEN HE KNEW IT HAD TO CHANGE

I think after I lost to Stephen Hendry in 1996, and I was quite overweight as well. I was eating and drinking quite a lot. I was looking at a picture of myself and it dawned on me, and I thought, ‘I need to get myself fit again’. So, I spent three months, I lost my driving licence, so I spent three months just going to the gym two or three times a day, eating really well and got myself in good shape for the next season. And then I managed to win four of five tournaments actually, which was great. But then I went back to drinking and partying again. So for the next two years I wasn’t as bad as I was before but I was still doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing. So, that’s why I decided that I had to go to The Priory. Basically, first thing in the morning I was getting up, having a drink, having a joint just to function through the day. Which never felt good because I thought ‘I don’t want to have to rely on this sort of stuff’ but it just a hold of me a bit too much and that’s when I decided to get help for it.

ON GOING TO THE PRIORY

I just rang up the drugs helpline and said, ‘I’ve got some problems and I need to get some help, I think I know what it is, and I’d like some help.’ She said fine, so she came round the house and spoke to me and within two hours of meeting her she had me in The Priory in Roehampton. That was probably the best thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t want to go, I was scared. I thought ‘I’m not an addict, I’m not an alcoholic, I’ve just got to learn to just control it a bit’. And when I went in there and they said it was complete abstinence it was like ‘What? There’s no way I’ll be able to do that.’ But, I managed to get clean and sober. I haven’t stayed clean and sober the whole time but I don’t go out and have one or two drinks, I have a glass every six months if it’s a birthday party or New Year’s Eve thing. Otherwise I’m teetotal really.

HOW HIS CAREER WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT WITH HIS DAD AROUND

I think it would have been a lot different. I think I would have won the World Championships a lot earlier. I think I would have won plenty more tournaments. Absolutely 100% it would have been different but it was what it was and it was just unfortunate. It was unfortunate for me and unfortunate for him and things could have been so much better really. I certainly would have enjoyed my career a lot more having him around than not having him around.

RONNIE ON HOW RAY REARDON CHANGED HIS GAME

My dad made the phone call to somebody. I don’t know who he called. But he said, ‘Ronnie could do with a little bit of someone with a bit of experience in his corner. Who would you recommend?’ They mentioned a few names then said the one you really want to get hold of would be Ray Reardon. So we said, ‘Can you get his number for me?’ and he said ‘yeah, no problem.’ So we got Ray’s number and my dad phoned him up and he had a chat to him and said, ‘Would you want to help my son?’ And he went ‘Yeah, love to! No problem.’ So he got off the phone to Ray Reardon and phoned me up and ‘here, I’ve got Ray Reardon’s number, he’s waiting for you to call him.’ This was halfway through a match, I was playing Andy Hicks at the time, and I think I was 9-7 down in the final session. I had a phone call from Ray and I said ‘Ray, I’m playing well but I’m 9-7 down.’ He went, ‘he’s not scared of you, that’s why.’ I was like ‘really?’ And he said, ‘No, he’s not scared of you, no, no, no. Just keep him tight, keep tight, don’t go for them ones where you leave them easy.’ So I thought ‘alright’ and I tightened up a little bit and I won the match quite easily, about 13-10 or 13-11. But it felt different, it felt a different way of playing. I felt in control. I got more mistakes out of my opponents. So, that was my first lesson with Ray, over the phone. Then, the next day he was in Sheffield so we really got to work on the table. And then from that moment onwards I was a different player, a completely different player, and all for the better as well.

RONNIE ON STEVE PETERS

Again, that was through one of my managers at the time. He knew me better than anyone at the time and he knew that I was having these stage frights if you like. I was OK practicing but as soon as a tournament came up I was so overly anxious that I would end up worrying myself so much that I wouldn’t be able to pot a ball when I get there, and I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy it. And he read this article about this guy that Steve Peters was working with and thought that it sounds just like Ronnie and Ronnie could do with some help form this guy. So I got in touch with Steve Peters and he agreed to meet me, we went up to his house. I think I spent about an hour with him for the first session and after about 10 or 15 minutes I thought ‘this geezer’s different’ and he grabbed my attention. I thought ‘I want to see what this guy’s got to offer.’ So, I did what he said for a year or two years. I really studied hard on the model, tried to get my emotions under check which I did and I had become a different player. So in the same way that Ray changed me, Steve changed me in my mental approach. So by then, I probably felt I’d got to…I’d covered all my weaknesses if you like.

RONNIE ON REDUCING HIS SCHEDULE

I think it backfired on me this year because in previous years when I did play I either won the event or at least got to the finals. So, I was getting a lot of ranking points and that was keeping me up the rankings – I got to number one towards the end of last year, that’s with playing half the tournaments some of the other players were playing. But, you need to win tournaments to do that and this year I haven’t. I’ve made finals, played two semis, made two quarters, two last-16s. So, it hasn’t been a bad season but I haven’t played enough and obviously I’ve struggled – I think I was about 18 on the one-year list. So, next year I think I won’t practice and I’ll just play probably every tournament and use that as my practice. So, when I come home I don’t play, spend time at home and do some of my other bits and pieces that I enjoy to do, like a bit of property and stuff, because I don’t want to be a slave to the game. But then I think if I’m going to play 90 or 100 days a year, I might as well play 70 or 80 matches and just use the matches as my practice. And if you lose great you have a few days at home and just try out doing it differently and seeing what I get because last year was a disaster. And I was missing so many tournaments that when I did some back to play I felt like I was well off the pace and that isn’t a nice feeling either.

RONNIE ON RETIREMENT

I think I’ll give it one good crack maybe next year or the year after I might play some more and then by the time I’m 50 call it a day. At some point, I can’t go on forever. It would look stupid keeping playing and playing. I love doing the exhibitions and stuff like that but if I can get another four or five years out of my snooker career that’s great. Obviously I’d like to do the exhibitions but then look to do stuff away from snooker.

I can only recommend that you listen to the full podcast, instead of just reading the article, because there is a bit more to it than what’s written. It’s a very positive interview and Andy remarked that Ronnie seems to be in a good place mentally, whilst a lot of people struggle with the lockdown. Andy knows Ronnie very well; as children, they were going to the same school and became friends. Andy is a decent amateur snooker player himself. In a way, he’s the ideal interviewer for Ronnie, who trusts him, knowing that he won’t distort what he’s telling him in order to create “stories” that sell.

Here is part of the vodcast …

Ronnie will turn 45 in December, so that’s him planning to play for another five years. A lot can happen in five years…

Yesterday’s Crucible Gold was about Steve Davis.

Steve’s emotion after winning in 1981 remains endearing and infectious even after nearly forty years. The 1984 final finish is still tense and enthralling, as well. People who never saw Davis play as a young man may think that he was mainly a defensive player, but he actually was very positive in his shot selection, without being reckless. And when in 2011, he defeated John Higgins, the defending Champion, in the last 16, Steve was slower, but he was still going for his shots. I think the finish of that match, should have been included in this “Crucible Gold”.

Day 6 of “No Crucible”

Eurosport continues with their “vodcast” series, and this article is a teaser to the one likely to be shown today, which means that the complete interview will probably be on their youtube channel tomorrow.

This one is about Ronnie’s struggles mainly

O’Sullivan: Rehab was the moment my career truly started

Ronnie Home Nations

Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport that going into the Priory for drug and alcohol treatment in 2000 was the “best thing” he has ever done, and that it was the moment his career truly started.

In a candid new episode of Eurosport’s new snooker vodcast, O’Sullivan discusses his life away from the table in depth with Andy Goldstein, covering the highs and lows of one of the great sporting careers.

From his sensational victory as a 17-year-old at the UK Championship in 1993, O’Sullivan has been a talent who has commanded intense attention. In an open discussion, the five-time world champion discusses how he could have won even more titles had his father not been imprisoned just weeks after that seminal victory over Stephen Hendry.

In 1998, he was also stripped of an Irish Masters title and forced to return his prize money after testing positive for cannabis following his win over Ken Doherty in the final.

O’Sullivan also discusses the “lightbulb moment” when he realised he needed to change his lifestyle, resulting in a rehab stint at the Priory – a decision which proved to be a major turning point on his road to sporting greatness. So much so that O’Sullivan considers it to be the moment his career truly started.

Addressing his private life in the 1990s, O’Sullivan tells Goldstein: “I was just partying a bit too much and like I said when I won that tournament (in 1993) I thought I’d made it. I’d come into a bit of money, I had a nice house, a nice car, I was single. So, I could do what I want when I liked really. I just probably chose the wrong company but it just got hold of me really. I took my eye off the ball. I wasn’t really focussed on snooker and I wasted probably five years of my career just messing about really.

“I think [the ‘lightbulb moment’ was] after I lost to Stephen Hendry in 1996, and I was quite overweight as well. I was eating and drinking quite a lot. I was looking at a picture of myself and it dawned on me, and I thought, ‘I need to get myself fit again’. So, I spent three months, I lost my driving licence, so I spent three months just going to the gym two or three times a day, eating really well and got myself in good shape for the next season. And then I managed to win four of five tournaments actually, which was great. But then I went back to drinking and partying again.

“So for the next two years I wasn’t as bad as I was before but I was still doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing. So, that’s why I decided that I had to go to The Priory. Basically, first thing in the morning I was getting up, having a drink, having a joint just to function through the day. Which never felt good because I thought ‘I don’t want to have to rely on this sort of stuff’ but it just a hold of me a bit too much and that’s when I decided to get help for it.

“I just rang up the drugs helpline and said, ‘I’ve got some problems and I need to get some help, I think I know what it is, and I’d like some help.’ She said fine, so she came round the house and spoke to me and within two hours of meeting her she had me in The Priory in Roehampton. That was probably the best thing I’ve ever done.

“I didn’t want to go, I was scared. I thought ‘I’m not an addict, I’m not an alcoholic, I’ve just got to learn to just control it a bit’. And when I went in there and they said it was complete abstinence it was like ‘What? There’s no way I’ll be able to do that.’ But, I managed to get clean and sober.

“I haven’t stayed clean and sober the whole time but I don’t go out and have one or two drinks, I have a glass every six months if it’s a birthday party or New Year’s Eve thing. Otherwise I’m teetotal really.”

O’Sullivan was asked by Goldstein if he looks back at that time and sees a ‘different person’, and said he has effectively wiped six years of his career as a result of his personal issues.

“I wouldn’t look at anything from 1994 up until where I came out The Priory. I just wouldn’t want to look at it because it’s such bad memories for me.

“Anything from coming out The Priory onwards I class as my career that was a proper career really where I was giving it 100%. I wasn’t always mentally in great shape because I struggled with performing badly. But I was still putting the work in, putting the practice in because if my game was alright I was one of the favourites to win any tournament.”

Also the press went on to ask Ronnie and Judd Trump their views on a possible World Championship behind closed doors:

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump react to possibility of World Championship behind closed doors

Phil HaighFriday 24 Apr 2020

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump are both of the opinion that a World Championship without a crowd is better than no World Championship, but the event would certainly lose something with no fans in attendance at the Crucible.

The World Championship is set to run from 31 July-16 August, although there is nothing guaranteed on whether there will be a crowd in attendance at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

There remains the possibility that the event could be held behind closed doors, with a reduced crowd, and an outside chance that a full house of around 1,000 would be allowed in South Yorkshire.

Five-time world champion O’Sullivan and reigning world champ Trump would obviously rather have fans in the room, but know that needs must during the coronavirus crisis.

Talking on Instagram with Stephen Hendry, O’Sullivan said: ‘I think as long as it’s safe…

[What if it’s 17-17 in the final frame?] ‘It would be mental wouldn’t it. That’s a terrible thought.

‘I watched the Gibraltar Open, the final when there was no one in the crowd and it was quite bizarre to watch it ‘

I suppose from a TV point of view, a lot of people sitting around just wanting to watch some live sport.

‘From that point of view, any type of World Championships would be better than no World Championships, really.’

Judd Trump won his first World Championship last year and will have been dearly looking forward to returning to the Crucible and being introduced to a packed crowd as the reigning champion.

It will be a disappointment for the world number one if the crowd can’t be there, but like O’Sullivan, he accepts that players need to get back to the table ASAP.

‘Obviously, I’d love to defend my title in front of a full crowd. And it’d be a bit disheartening having that taken away from me,’ Judd told the Sun.

‘But you’ve to look at the bigger picture here. As snooker players, we need to keep playing.

‘Maybe if there aren’t other sports going on, then snooker can become a global sport. People who maybe didn’t watch the sport before might tune in.

‘With football, you need 60-70 people to play a game. In snooker, maybe you need only four or five people.

‘The best-case scenario is a full crowd. But I cannot see things getting back to normal that fast.’

WST are very confident that the event will go ahead on 31 July although there remains the possibility that government guidelines could prevent this entirely.

More likely it will just be a question of crowd restrictions, which WST are flexible to and will make a decision on closer to the time, depending on how government advice changes.

Personally, I still doubt that holding the tournament end of July will be possible. I can’t see the qualifiers, involving a possible 128 players, being deemed safe as early as mid-July.

Yesterday’s “Crucible Gold” was about the 1985 Black Ball final. I have to say, I’m getting sick and tired of the constant rehashing about that final and how it finished.

The BBC, on the other hand, showed a really good and interesting “Crucible Classic”: the 1988 match between a 19 years old Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White. This was a high-quality match. Young Stephen lacked experience but his quality is there for all to see. As for Jimmy, watching this match, you really wonder how he has never won the World Championship, although, in a way, the answer is there for all to see as well. Unable or unwilling to curb his attacking instinct, ever in the crucial moments, and a certain vulnerability under pressure, although, there was no sign of the latter in this particular match deciding frame.

Today they are showing the 1992 final… same players, different story.

Days 4 and 5 of “No Crucible”

Well, the big news yesterday was that new dates have been set for the  2020 World Championship in agreement with the broadcasters, BBC and Eurosport.

Of course, it can only go ahead if restrictions are lifted – at least partially – and if it’s safe. The main issue, in my view, remains the qualifiers, that need to happen earlier and involve a lot more players and officials.

Also, if travel restrictions are not lifted globally,  players based outside the UK may find it difficult or even impossible to attend. That’s a serious issue because the World Championship qualifiers are essential for so many players when it comes to their tour survival and it would be completely unfair if they were unable to compete, by no fault of theirs, and lost their tour card as a result.

Interestingly, the Championship is due to start on a Friday and end on a Sunday. That is a very welcome change for a lot of fans around the world. WST stands for “World Snooker Tour”, and having the climax of the final of the biggest event of the season played on a Monday, meaning on a normal working day for everyone except the UK fans was just another example of the persistent UK centric view of the governing body of the sport. I hope this particular change in the schedule is there to stay and not just a “one-off” thing.

Eurosport delivered two interesting vodcasts.

Andy Goldstein spoke to Neil Robertson, about his career, video games addiction, and supporting a partner suffering mental health illness. Neil is truly a great, positive person and this chat is really worth listening to.

He also spoke to Ronnie about his best wins, lockdown life, 146s, and that streaker.

At the time of writing, the vodcast isn’t available on youtube yet, but here is the audio:

And here are some of the key points (source Eurosport)

Ronnie O’Sullivan on his best wins, lockdown life and that streaker

Ronnie 2019/20Ronnie O’Sullivan | Snooker | ESP Player Feature Image credit: Getty Images

Ronnie O’Sullivan joins us for the latest episode of the Snooker Vodcast to discuss, amongst other things, the matches that shaped his career.

O’SULLIVAN ON LOCKDOWN

It’s actually been alright really – it’s a bit tough for us at the moment because we haven’t actually got a kitchen so we’re just making do with what we can; we’ve got our doors getting delivered in five days and then hopefully our floors will be delivered in another three weeks, and then our kitchen another four/five weeks after that. So, it’s not ideal but it’s alright.

ON WINNING THE UK CHAMPIONSHIP AT 17

In some ways I wasn’t surprised [by winning it that young]

When I first turned pro I didn’t really know how good the top pros were. You only watch it on TV and sometimes you only get the highlights, and they only show you the best bits. I think my first real insight into playing someone like Stephen Hendry was the tournament before the UK Championship and that was in Dubai – and he beat me 6-2.

And basically the reason why I didn’t win or just get a bit closer was because I showed him too much respect. But he gave me chances, and I just didn’t take them. I think when I went into the next match I had a bit more belief that if I got those chances, there should be no reason why I couldn’t compete with him. Obviously, the pressure was all on Stephen and no one knew me at the time, so that also helped.

ON THE FEARLESSNESS OF YOUTH

It’s so much harder when you’re playing someone that’s younger than you because Stephen was the one to be shot at. So from that moment onwards [the UK Championship win], me, [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins were trying to just keeping coming at him and every time he beat us it only made us stronger, but every time we would beat him it would make him a bit weaker, you know? Like for me, now if I was to play someone like Higgins, it probably wouldn’t put as much of a dent in him [if I beat him], but for him to get beaten by a younger player, it would really like maybe put more of a dent in him. So, it was harder for Hendry than it was for me in many ways.

ON HIS FIRST MASTERS TITLE

I remember that I was lucky to get through the first round. I was playing John Parrott who was a bit of bogeyman for me, as the first seven times I’d played him he’d beaten me. So, every time I had to play him I just thought, he was the one guy I could never get near. He had a straight blue in the middle to beat me 5-4, but he missed it and I cleared up and then went on to win the tournament. And to play John Higgins, who is probably my biggest rival out of all of them, was fantastic.

WHY IT TOOK ‘SO LONG’ TO CLAIM WORLD TITLE AND THE RELIEF

Because I just started partying really. So, when the tournament season started, I kind of thought, it started in September and finished in May, so I had to kind of curb my drinking, my partying from September to May.

If I had a bad session I felt the sooner this is over, the sooner I can have some fun with my friends.

When it came off, it was the most unbelievable feeling. If you win it once, it doesn’t matter if you don’t win it again because you’ve got your name on the trophy. The monkey off your back is huge, it allows you to go and play and then it’s just a case of clocking up as many titles as you can get. I’m sure Judd [Trump] will go and win it a few more times [now he has won it once].

ON WINNING HIS FIFTH WORLD TITLE AFTER TAKING A YEAR OUT

never thought I’d win it [after the sabbatical], because I’d never won the World Championship back to back. However, when I got on the practice table I felt great immediately. But practise and matches are totally different and I had no match practise and you can only get that by playing matches. But I did feel that after each match [at the Crucible], parts of my game got stronger. And by the final I kind of hit my true, the highest point, you know, I was playing at a very, very high level. Come the final, I just went out there and played as aggressively as I could.

BEST WINS

I think my three best victories were the 2012 World Champs, 2013 World Champs and I enjoyed the 2014 Masters when I beat Mark Selby in the final – to beat Selby as convincingly as I did shows that I must have been playing some really good stuff.

ON THAT FASTEST-EVER 147

I was a lot faster then, a lot younger, and played much more on instinct. I still play on instinct but that was youth and enthusiasm and all that sort of stuff. I probably know I wouldn’t be able to do that now because I’m a different player. It’s still one of the fantastic moments in snooker I suppose.

….

ON THE 146 AGAINST BARRY PINCHES

I was always going to get a 146 [against Barry Pinches]. Yeah, there was no way I was going to get a 147. No chance. I didn’t even need to go round the table [to complete the 147], I’d have just screwed it in with a little bit of side and been on the black. I think I’ve had three 146s now, which could have been maxes.

ON THE 140 AGAINST MARK KING AT THE 2010 WORLD OPEN

I knew it wasn’t a big prize [for a 147], but then I also knew that if I was to say there should be a bigger prize for a 147, you get people going, ‘Oh, you know, you’re ungrateful, you’re this, you’re that.’ So, I just thought, ‘What’s the best way to illuminate it? I thought, just go for the 147 and ask the ref what the prize is. Once he tells me it’s that, I go, ‘Oh, alright, I’ve made a 140, that’ll do’. It just makes it much more of an interesting talking point.

ON HIS 1000TH TON AND THE CROWD REACTION

It was a great moment; especially to do it at the Guild Hall where I won my first UK Championship. To win the title and then make the century in the last frame, against Neil Robertson, who’s a fantastic player, for me it was the perfect place to do it. Yeah, I was buzzing, the crowd were excited, and once they [started clapping] I didn’t know whether to carry on playing or let them carry on clapping so I kept potting the balls. It was a good moment.

THE STREAKER IN THE FINAL OF THE MASTERS IN ‘97 AGAINST DAVIS

It was quite bizarre really. The weird thing was, I was sitting opposite her, so I saw her taking her clothes off and I was thinking ‘what she’s doing now?’ And then she ran down and did a couple laps round the table – I think she was waiting for somebody to take her away, but no-one did. But yeah, it was quite funny.

ON HANDING HIS CUE OVER TO A SPECTATOR AT THE ENGLISH OPEN

You could just tell she was no threat and all the security guards come running out, and I thought, oh I hope they don’t grab her to the floor. So, I went, ‘Hold on, let her have a shot.’ So, I gave her a shot, she tried, she was happy, took her shot and off she went.

So, Ronnie admitted to having been naughty about the 146s … in protest against the dwarfing, then the disappearance, of the reward offered for a maximum. One can look at this in many ways, and argue that players are out there to entertain, which is true but only in part. They are there to win, first and foremost, and to earn a living. How they play, and the shot they chose to take is their decision and theirs only. Usually, going for a 147 involves taking risks at some point. It may not be worth it, even if the frame is safe: after all, there is a reward for the highest break, and the 146 – or less – might do the trick just as fine. For years, before the media became centuries obsessed, and before snooker was as reliant as it is today on the betting industry, Mark Williams was known for pushing balls safe as soon as he was confident that his opponent wouldn’t come back to the table. I can’t remember him being blamed for it back then. He was just eager to go on with the matches (*)

Update: the vodcast is now available although it’s “shorter” than the audio.

Also, WST looked back at Ding Junhui’s Crucible career and significance in the context of snooker in China. But I find those Crucible Golds a bit disappointing. To much emphasise on big breaks, and not much on the “stories” behind some matches, or “runs” in the championship.

(*) Willo also frequently conceded frames whilst still being mathematically able to win, when he felt that his chances to actually win were very slim. He did this mainly in qualifiers, not on television. Again, the idea was to not spend a lot of energy on a lost cause and get on with the next frame.

Eurosport: What are the greatest Crucible finals?

Another “All-time top ten” article by Eurosport

Top Ten Crucible Finals banner

by Desmond Kane

1. Judd Trump (Eng) 18-9 John Higgins (Sco) – 2019

Judd Trump 2019 World
Judd Trump completed an 18-9 win over John Higgins in 2019. Image credit: Eurosport

A modern masterpiece, and an all-time classic. Never has a final attained the heights or the quality of the 2019 final. Judd Trump produced the greatest level witnessed by any player in any World Championship final in butchering four-times world champion John Higgins 18-9.

The numbers speak for themselves: Trump made seven centuries, and Higgins compiled four yet still trailed home a distant second. Trump produced runs of 135, 126, 114, 105, 104, 103, 101, 94, 71, 71, 70, 63, 62, 58 and 51 in an awe-inspiring display of power potting, percentage snooker. That he did so against the arguably the finest all-round player in history made it an altogether more staggering feat.

Higgins made an imperious 125 to lead 5-4, but was forced to sit and suffer from that juncture onwards as Trump laid waste to the table, trousering eight straight frames to career 12-5 clear and put the final beyond doubt before the second day. Higgins had suffered a third straight loss in a World Championship final, but unlike the defeats to Mark Selby and Mark Williams in the previous two years, he accepted his fate with great candour.

“I was the lucky one to not have to pay for a ticket, he was just awesome,” said Higgins.

It will be the first of many I am sure, to produce a standard like that is incredible. He was unplayable. I never expected to get to the final, I came up against an unstoppable machine.

As this onlooker wrote in the aftermath: “At times, it was like watching snooker’s version of Swan Lake such was the deft and graceful way the lithe frame danced around the table, almost eyeing up the balls like prey. It was a cathartic experience, like he was at one with the table.

“Well-mannered, thoughtful and talkative in interviews, Trump possesses every quality you would seek from a snooker world champion. He is a marketing man’s dream, the first world champion in his 20s since Neil Robertson in 2010.”

“I was trying to enjoy it, and put on a show for the fans,” said Trump. “Play a few different shots that other players don’t play.

You practice so hard in private so you’ve got to go out and show it somehow.

Fitting that the greatest show was reserved for a great showman. Bristol cream had risen to the very top.

2. Ronnie O’Sullivan (Eng) 18-12 Barry Hawkins (Eng) – 2013

Ronnie World 2013Ronnie O’Sullivan completed an 18-12 win over Barry Hawkins in 2013.
Image credit: Eurosport

It turns out the only way isn’t Essex. O’Sullivan, fighting out of Chigwell, astonishingly returned from a year’s sabbatical when he apparently fraternised with part-time work on a farm to successfully defend the trophy with a swashbuckling display, high on pressure pots and little regard for his opponents. For a man who loves jogging, O’Sullivan seemed to be in a sprint towards his destiny. Only O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Mark Selby have successfully defended the old pot in Sheffield, but nobody has managed to do it with such flair as O’Sullivan in 2013.

Until Trump’s fabulous exhibition of high octane elegance in 2019, it was the finest performance by any Crucible champion and one in keeping with his ongoing status as snooker’s greatest natural talent. O’Sullivan never lost a session during his run to a fifth world title usurping Marcus ‘The Pride of Dumbarton’ Campbell, Ali Carter, Stuart Bingham and Judd Trump, but saved the best for last by producing six centuries in the final.

O’Sullivan contributed breaks of 133, 124, 113, 106, 103, 100, 92, 88, 86, 77, 76, 76, 74, 67, 55 and 54. He fairly galloped away from his fellow Englishman Hawkins, a heavy scorer from Ditton, with the final locked at 7-7, winning 11 of the closing 16 frames to rejoice in the moment of a fifth Crucible title to accompany his victories in 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

“I thought it was a brilliant final and great to be a part of. I always knew Barry had the talent and the game and he put me under a lot of pressure,” he said. “Everyone in the outside world thought it would be a procession, but people within the game all knew just what a good player Barry is.

I managed to play my way through the tournament and got stronger and stronger. And I managed my mind better than I ever have done, which got me through. You have to face your demons during this tournament and that’s why it’s such a hard tournament to win. In the final I had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

3. Mark Williams (Wal) 18-16 John Higgins (Sco) – 2018

256920Mark Williams World 2018Mark Williams completed an 18-16 win over John Higgins in 2018. Image credit: Getty Images

Mark Williams experienced something akin to a damascene conversion ahead of the 2017/18 season when he decided to alter technique and begin pursuing the snooker truth according to coach Stephen Feeney, purveyor of SightRight, and a better way to potting perfection. With nothing to lose after six years without a ranking tournament win, it provided Williams with the key to the matrix. Not only did he resume life as a major event winner at the Northern Ireland Open and German Masters, he was sharp enough to claim a third world title in Sheffield, a remarkable 15 years after his second victory at Crucible, the longest gap between titles of any Crucible winner.

The final with John Higgins was an instant classic between two men who turned professional in 1992 yet seemed untouched by the ravages of time. At the age of 43, Williams was the second oldest champion at the Crucible behind his compatriot Ray Reardon, who had lifted the last of his six world titles aged 45 in 1978.

Williams had witnessed Higgins restore parity at 15-15 from 15-10 behind, but maintained his composure as key contributions of 100 and 69 were enough to quell the Scotsman’s trademark resistance. He turned up naked at the post-match conference content in the naked truth that he had emerged victorious after hours of dedication to his chosen vocation.

Last year I was seriously thinking of giving up, but my wife said I can’t sleep in the house 24 hours a day.

4. Dennis Taylor (NI) 18-17 Steve Davis (Eng) – 1985

Steve Davis - Dennis Taylor World 1985Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor after their iconic final in 1985.Image credit: Eurosport

The black ball final was dramatic in its day, a cultural phenomenon and will be remembered as one of the most celebrated finales in the history of British TV sport. Yet it did not contain a single century over 35 frames, and was probably recalled as truly nail-biting because both men felt the pressure right until the bitter end. Davis had blown an 8-0 lead and missed a relatively straightforward cut on a black to claim the crown after midnight in the early hours of Monday 29 April 1985 with Northern Irishman Taylor, who looks younger these days, wiping the steam from his goggles to sink the winning black before wagging his finger in the air like an excitable umpire at Lord’s.

“Steve is wonderful the way he handles everything. He didn’t talk much about it for a couple of years after it happened,” said Taylor.

We both realise now that we were involved in a piece of snooker history, we didn’t at the time. It is 35 years on and people still remember that one. I was just very lucky to have been involved in snooker history.

Despite record viewing figures of 18.5m on BBC2 for snooker’s most famous match, it was a moment in time that illustrated snooker’s popularity at a time when the standard was several levels below what we witness today. To put this into context, only 14 centuries were made in the 1985 tournament compared to 100 last year. It is match that transcends the sport, but it could also be argued that Davis, a pristine perfectionist in his peak years, progressed to play to a higher standard in remaining competitive in the 1990s and 2000s than when he dominated the sport in gobbling up the game’s trophies.It is an argument best illustrated by his 13-11 win over the defending champion John Higgins at the age of 52 in the last 16 of the 2010 World Championship, but defeat to Taylor hurt when he was far and above the rest of the competition in his decade of superiority. The final frame lasted 68 minutes, but has been discussed far more extensively over the past 35 years. Did Davis bottle it? Quite possibly is the harsh answer when the man nicknamed Romford Slim was obviously of a higher calibre yet was also prone to playing negatively under extreme heat.A year earlier, he had crawled over the line 18-16 against young Jimmy White having led 12-4 in the 1984 final, but paid a heavy price for over-thinking and a lack of clarity in his shot selection as the fates conspired against him. Still human foibles make for nerve-shredding suspense.“It will be nice to watch all the old stuff, but it will remind us that a lot of it wasn’t that good,” he said. “There was no century break in the 1985 final, and the standard of play these days has gone through the roof.

I think we’re living in the golden age of snooker now, and we’ve got so many great players to tap into. You’ve got to be even more outrageous if you want to be a character today.

5. Stuart Bingham (Eng) 18-15 Shaun Murphy (Eng) – 2015

Bingham World 2015

Stuart Bingham of England poses with the trophy after beating Shaun Murphy in the final of the 2015 Betfred World Snooker Championship at Crucible Theatre on May 4, 2015. Image credit: Eurosport

“Four words: winner, winner, chicken dinner,” said Stuart ‘Ball-run’ Bingham as he finally made good on his reputation as a fearsome breakbuilder by carrying off the game’s greatest prize as a 50-1 long shot. Bingham’s run to the title was fraught with danger yet he stood up to the pressure with a fabulous effort of personal perseverance by eclipsing Ronnie O’Sullivan (13-9), Judd Trump (17-16) and Shaun Murphy (18-15) to claim the old pot.

It was quite a feat with Bingham overcoming the obstacle of self-doubt to hold off the 2005 world champion Murphy, who had rallied from 15-12 behind to level at 15-15 having led 8-4. Murphy had seemingly steadied the ship heading for home, but Bingham had other plans in summoning the strength of Samson to see it through.

“At 15-15 I thought my chance was gone, my arm felt like someone else’s and nerves sort of got to me,” said Bingham. “We had a marathon 31st frame and I sort of pinched it on the colours and from then on I played pretty solid. It’s just unreal, I can’t believe I’m the 2015 world champion. I’m going to be the same person. I’m going to be playing in all the tournaments, and hopefully I’ll be a good role model being a world champion.”

And he has been the same person, a figure who loves potting snooker balls. Bingham joined Ken Doherty as the only player to win the world title at amateur and professional level. Bingham produced knocks of 123, 112, 105, 102, 89, 88, 87, 87, 76, 65, 57, 57, 56, 55, 53, 51 and 50 to earn the praise of tennis icon Martina Navratilova, who had been keenly following the happenings on TV. Bingham claimed the Masters at the outset of 2020 to complete a remarkable renaissance in his latter years as a competitive professional.

Since turning 35, he has won all of his six ranking events and the Masters. As a late developer, few have been greater.

6. Joe Johnson (Eng) 18-12 Steve Davis (Eng) – 1986

150-1 outsider and talented part-time singer Joe Johnson, sporting some snazzy shoes and a calculating train of thought, was firmly on song in 1986. The then unheralded Bradford professional produced a breathless display of potting ambition to achieve one of the greatest Crucible upsets of all time against the dominant snooker force of the day. Having somehow blown an 8-0 lead to lose to Dennis Taylor a year earlier, Davis made three centuries in the final, but was again mysteriously afflicted by being a hot favourite against Johnson as he succumbed 18-12 with the sport’s iceman suffering another very public meltdown.

Johnson made two centuries in recovering from 12-9 behind to oust Terry Griffiths 13-12 in the quarter-finals before a 16-8 win over Bolton’s Tony Knowles helped him ease into his first world final. He trailed 7-4, but led 13-11 before the final session, an evening he dominated to rejoice in a stunning victory as Davis wilted in the face of some imposing potting.

Johnson almost regained the title a year later to illustrate his golden period was no fluke by beating a young Stephen Hendry 13-12 on his sojourn to a rematch with Davis in 1987. He lost 18-14, but no player has come as close as Johnson to ending the Crucible Curse in becoming the first maiden champion to successfully defend the trophy. Johnson will be recalled as one of the sport’s most popular champions, and the main protagonist in one of its finest finals.

7. Stephen Hendry (Sco) 18-17 Jimmy White (Eng) – 1994

Hendry World 1994Stephen Hendry celebrates victory in 1994. Image credit: Eurosport

Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White lost in six Crucible finals, but will never come as close to lifting the world title as he did on May 2, 1994. In his sixth, and what would prove to be his final fateful stab at becoming world champion, White came up agonisingly short. He had suffered five final defeats to Steve Davis in 1984, John Parrott in 1991 and Stephen Hendry in 1990, 1992 and 1993, but finally seemed set to lift the sport’s most coveted prize.

White had trailed 5-1 on Sunday, but fought back courageously and was among the balls in the final frame when he choked a black off its spot as the realisation dawned that he was on the verge of ending his reign as sport’s ultimate nearly man. The rest as they say is history with Hendry, who had triumphed despite fracturing an elbow earlier in the tournament, contributed a priceless 58 to win his fourth world title.

White never appeared in another final while Hendry would lift three more world gongs in 1995, 1996 and 1999. “What can I say Jimmy apart from Happy Birthday,” said the formidable TV presenter David Vine on White’s 32nd birthday.

“He’s beginning to annoy me,” responded White. He had led 14-8 in the 1992 final before losing 18-14 to Hendry. The defeat two years later was different in nature, but far more cutting.

8. Peter Ebdon (Eng) 18-17 Stephen Hendry (Sco) – 2002

Ebdon World 2002

Seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry would never win the world title beyond the 1990s, but in his private moments will probably wonder how he contrived to lose the 2002 final. Having overcome Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last four with an exceptional display of cueball control, Hendry was a strong favourite to become champion for an eighth time.

He made a record 16 tons in 2002, the most any player has produced during the World Championship at the Crucible yet still found a way to lose. Hendry had outclassed Ebdon 18-12 to win the tournament in 1996, but encountered a steelier figure six years later. The man from Wellingborough – a 33-1 shot to win the event – had led 4-0 and 11-8, but was forced to confront only the third final frame decider in the modern era of the World Championship after missing a black off its spot leading 52–27 in the 34th frame.

Hendry watched Ebdon contribute 59 in the concluding frame before a safety error trying to snooker his opponent allowed The Force to finish off matters in his favour. “Stephen’s been a magnificent ambassador for the sport,” said Ebdon in a weirdly foreboding analysis. “Players like Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams wouldn’t be playing the standard they are playing now if it wasn’t for Hendry.”

The final signalled the deterioration of Hendry as a winning machine in the sport. He reached one more major ranking final at the UK Championship in 2006, which he lost 10-6 to Ebdon, but would never return to a world final.

He can console himself with the fact that he is likely to remain the Crucible’s most prodigious winner of all time.

“I can’t see anyone beating it. O’Sullivan’s got five. He can do it if he keeps playing. But there are four others playing at that level,” said Hendry.

At his absolute best Ronnie wins. But he’s getting to that age where he’s not doing it often. He’ll talk all sorts of bull***t, saying he doesn’t care about the record. But deep down he wants to beat me while, of course, I want to hold on to the record.

9. John Higgins (Sco) 18-15 Judd Trump (Eng) – 2011

Higgins World 2011John Higgins after his 18-15 win over Judd Trump in 2011.Image credit: Eurosport

The 2011 final was a battle of style and wills as 21-year-old Bristol lad Trump bulldozed his way to the final potting balls for fun and opting largely against the strategical excellence for which his opponent was renowned. He had served notice of his intention to progress deep into the tournament with a 10-8 win over the defending champion Neil Robertson in the first round and further victories over Martin Gould, Graeme Dott and Ding Junhui suggested Trump was ready to pot his way to glory.

Higgins was also in supreme form buoyed by victories over Stephen Lee, Rory McLeod, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams to reach the final. Trump rolled in breaks of 104 and 99 to move 12-9 clear, but a missed blue on the cusp of a four-frame advantage proved costly as Higgins responded with a run of five straight frames to lead 14-12.

Trump would level at 14-14, but Higgins always looked the more complete player and finally sealed the victory with a quite majestic double on the pink. “He was the better player. He was playing a brand of snooker I have never seen before in my life,” said Higgins.

It was unbelievable the amount of long shots he was potting, it was incredible. It was great to watch – we have got the new sensation of the game.

It was also a learning experience for Trump, who has crafted a lauded tactical game in the ensuing years.

For Higgins it was a fourth world title, and his last at the venue having also lost four times in the game’s showpiece encounter, but the narrative is correct that Higgins is one of the sport’s true giants.

10. Shaun Murphy (Eng) 18-16 Matthew Stevens (Wal) – 2005

Murphy World 2005Shaun Murphy celebrates victory with the trophy in 2005.Image credit: Eurosport

If Jimmy White is recalled as the Crucible’s most famous nearly man, Matthew Stevens is not a bad second, so to speak. 22-year-old Shaun Murphy, an audacious potting talent with a formidable technique, became the first qualifier since Terry Griffiths to lift the world title in 1979 at odds of 150-1.

He had trailed 12-11 heading into the final session, but revelled in a performance beyond his years to emerge victorious in the last year the tournament was sponsored by Embassy due to the ban on tobacco advertising. Murphy enjoyed breaks of 137, 125, 107, 97, 84, 83, 80, 68, 66, 64, 64, 56, 56, 55, 52 and 51 to end Stevens’ hopes of a first world title including closing runs of 97 and 83 to catapult himself over the winning line from 16-16.

Stevens also lost 18-16 in the 2000 final to Welshman Mark Williams, and has suffered some agonising defeats in the last four, including a 17-15 defeat to John Higgins in 2001, a 17-16 loss to Peter Ebdon in 2002 and a 17-15 loss to Graeme Dott in 2004.

“I challenge any of those people to walk out in the Crucible Theatre, and try to make more than 10,” said Murphy in 2016. “It is not as easy as we sometimes make it look, and I’ve been on the backend of the (seven-times champion Stephen) Hendry era and through (five-times winner Ronnie) O’Sullivan’s dominance of the noughties. I’ve played in some fantastic matches here, but unfortunately some of them haven’t gone my way.”

It went his way in 2005, and he remains one of only 21 men to have become world champion at the Crucible. He finds himself in an esteemed company of green baize goliaths.

Whilst I somehow agree with the first three, I strongly disagree with n°4. That was a horrible final and the drama of the last balls doesn’t change that. Of course, not putting it in this list might have got Desmond Kane in trouble with the editor I guess.

The first weekend of May 1994 will remain a cursed weekend in many snooker fans’ memories. Not only did Jimmy White manage to lose to Hendry once again, but this was also the weekend when Ayrton Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand-Prix after Rubens Barichello had been seriously injured, and Roland Ratzenberger had died during the qualifying stages.

I disagree with Desmond when he says that the 2002 defeat marked the start of the deterioration of Hendry as a winner. To me, it had started five years before, when Ken Doherty managed to beat him by 18-12, with a high break of 85, whilst Hendry had 5 centuries. I believe that this defeat damaged Hendry’s confidence very badly and showed the other players that he could be beaten, and how.

I was on the Crucible floor at the start of the 2011 World Championship final session and the atmosphere was incredible, electric. It’s difficult to describe really. I’ve never felt anything like it, before or after. Not only had Judd Trump been phenomenal throughout the tournament, and a breath of fresh air, but emotions positives and negatives were running high about John Higgins. It was only the year before that the World Championship had been “tainted” by the NOTW scandal. Some admired his will to win after returning from his ban and losing his father earlier in the year, others were strongly of the opinion that he shouldn’t be there playing at all.